Janet Byrd of Wind Chimes with Purpose, displays her wind chimes at the Calico Arts & Crafts show.
MOULTRIE, Ga. — There is one annoying facet of craft-fair shopping that has plagued consumers as long as people have had handmade wares to sell.
How much cash do you get out of the ATM beforehand so that you have enough to buy items that you may like, without having to call in your own personal Brinks truck to escort you to the venue?
Mobile technology is easing that burden, as witnessed recently at the Calico Arts & Craft Show in Moultrie.
Each year, more than 200 artists and tradesmen come to Spence Field with their pieces hoping to make a little money and give consumers a unique item that they can’t find in traditional brick-and-mortar stores.
But while perusing the hand-crafted items for sale at booths and displays at the event, one thing among the unique items stands out: the growing number of vendors who have turned to technology to give customers a more convenient option to pay.
“I’m finding that technology allows for customers to shop cashless because many vendors take credit cards using smartphones or iPads using the square or Intuit or other services,” said Janet Byrd, the artist behind Wind Chimes with a Purpose, which features Wind Chimes with a Purpose — handmade wind chimes that are crafted using repurposed items around the home such as tea kettles and flatware.
Byrd uses the “Square,” a nearly matchbox-sized device that plugs into her iPhone’s headphone jack and allows her to swipe credit or debit cards for purchases.
Customers then sign their name using their finger on the touch-sensitive face of the smartphone and their purchase is consummated, with funds coming directly from the customer’s credit or bank account and flowing seamlessly into Byrd’s coffers.
“For people who aren’t really familiar with it, they get a kick out of signing their name with their finger,” Byrd says with a bit of chuckle.
Several card-swiping devices are currently on the market. The aforementioned Square, small business accounting firm Intuit has its own reader, as does online commerce giant Paypal. They all have the same basic terms and conditions.
Vendors pay a small price for the device — or in some cases, as with Square, it’s free — and download the app on their smartphones. Then, for each swipe, between 2.7 and 2.75 percent of each purchase is deducted off the top by the manufacturer with the balance headed to the vendor’s bank account.
For those pesky times when the cards won’t swipe and the vendor has to type in the credit card number directly, the fee jumps to 3.4 percent for some manufacturers.
But Byrd is finding that the convenience for customers and the security that comes with not having to carry large amounts of cash as she travels around the Southeast is worth it.
“It makes it a lot easier because customers sometimes don’t have a lot of cash on them or a vendor may not accept checks so it’s just more convenient,” Byrd said. “And from a safety perspective ... well, the people who travel from out of town as vendors do stay at motels and things like that, so you have to be more careful. This helps me avoid having large amounts of cash just sitting around.”
Positioned just next Byrd at Calico was Jessica Drexler. An artist displaying her vintage redesigned jewelry, decor and art from her business, J. Drexler Designs.
Drexler had plugged the Intuit device into her smartphone and pointed out that, especially in more rural areas where data coverage by the major cell companies is still slow to reach the speeds that are commonplace in urban areas, the devices can have their drawbacks.
“Sometimes, though, like anything technical, we do get in some locations where we don’t get the best signals, and that makes it tough to carry out transactions. Then it can get frustrating because the customer might have to be patient to wait five or 10 minutes before it will go through,” Drexler said.
Interestingly enough, two vendors — with different cellular providers — who are in booths positioned right next to each other can often either swipe with impunity or in vain, based on who their cell carrier is.
“I’ve been having a bit of trouble with mine in here ... with getting a good data signal, but Jessica has had really no problems, and we’re like 10 feet away from each other,” Byrd said. “But she also has a different cellular carrier than I do.”
And with the latest data from the Federal Reserve showing that U.S. credit card usage is on the uptick — up .06 percent in January from December — you’ll likely see more vendors at craft fairs and festivals turning to technology to keep up.